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Cherokee Nation Awarded Up to $6M Dislocated Worker Grant

The Cherokee Nation has been awarded up to $6 million from a U.S. Department of Labor grant to provide jobs and employment services to those impacted by the health and economic effects of opioid use, addiction and overdose.

While the initial funding is nearly $2 million, the Dislocated Worker Grant could ultimately be worth about $6 million for the Tribe over time.

“At the Cherokee Nation, we recognize the best way to help unemployed Cherokees is to get them back to work as soon as possible,” said Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin. “With the help of this Department of Labor grant, we will be able to equip many of our citizens with the training and skills that Oklahoma employers will be searching for as these individuals prepare to enter the workforce.”

A portion of the grant will be used to place about 50 participants in support staff positions within Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health. These individuals will work in the Tribe’s outpatient health centers to help expand opioid-related treatment through services such as counseling and pain management. Funding will also provide training to 250 participants for careers in health care, manufacturing, hospitality or construction-related occupations.

The Tribe anticipates serving both Cherokees and non-Natives, in all 14 counties of the Cherokee Nation.

“Being awarded a large federal grant exclusively to work with individuals affected by the opioid crisis will really open up new doors for many of our unemployed citizens who have unfortunately been impacted by the crisis,” said Diane Kelley, executive director of Career Services. “We look forward to getting started and helping hundreds of our Cherokee citizens find the training opportunities they need.”

Supported by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014, Dislocated Worker Grants temporarily expand the service capacity of dislocated worker programs at the state and local levels by providing funding assistance in response to large, unexpected economic events that cause significant job losses.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services first declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency in October 2017 and did so again in January 2018, enabling the Cherokee Nation to request the federal grant funding. 

The Cherokee Nation was the first Tribe to file a landmark lawsuit against retail distributors of opioids in 2017.

In 2015 and 2016, distributors shipped and pharmacies dispensed 184 million opioid pain pills in the 14 counties of the Cherokee Nation, equating to 153 doses for every man, woman, and child in the area.

The Tribe later filed a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers Purdue Pharma L.P., Purdue Pharma Inc., Purdue Frederick Company Inc., and Purdue Pharma Manufacturing Inc.

The complaint charges the companies with conducting a years-long marketing campaign that has resulted in the vast overprescribing and distribution of prescription opioids, and failing to prevent the flow of illegally prescribed opioids to 355,000 men, women, and children in the Cherokee Nation.

Both lawsuits are pending.

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